N.C. Highway Historical Marker Recognizes State’s First Rosenwald School

Warren Grove School, circa 1980.
Raleigh

With the end of Reconstruction following the Civil War, the hope of African Americans for education seemed lost. But in 1912 Sears and Roebuck founder Julius Rosenwald, in collaboration with Booker T. Washington, initiated a program for rural students in Alabama that spread throughout the South. The first of these Rosenwald Schools to be built in North Carolina was the Warren Grove School in Chowan County, completed Oct. 8, 1915.

In recognition of the Warren Grove School, and the impact of Rosenwald Schools in North Carolina, a N.C. Highway Historical Marker will be dedicated Sunday, Oct. 8, 2 p.m., in Edenton on Virginia Road across from First Methodist Church. The dedication will be part of a weekend commemoration of the Rosenwald School program starting Saturday, Oct. 7, at 2 p.m. at Warren Grove Missionary Baptist Church, on Highway 32 North at Warren Grove Road.

Chowan County Commission Chair Jeff Smith, Edenton Mayor Roland Vaughan, Rep. Bob Sterling and Deputy Secretary Kevin Cherry, North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, are participants in the Sunday dedication program. 

The Warren Grove School was a two-teacher plan and built for $1,622. The black community contributed $486, the white community and the school system furnished $836, and Rosenwald contributed $300, the maximum amount initially allowed by the Rosenwald Fund. The Rosenwald Fund’s School Building Program was incorporated in 1917 and distributed grants that also required funds from the black and white communities and local tax dollars.

African Americans raised the majority of funds for Rosenwald Schools throughout North Carolina, and the Tar Heel state had more Rosenwald Schools than any other. By 1932, when the program was discontinued, black residents of North Carolina had contributed $666,000 towards the 817 new Rosenwald buildings. The rural school building program initiated by what is now Tuskegee University proved a successful model for providing quality education for African American children in the South.

The Rosenwald Fund’s program facilitated an unparalleled amount of interracial cooperation and allowed more children to receive a better education in modern buildings that were better equipped.  The building plans provided by Tuskegee ranged from one to 11 teacher models and later were constructed in more densely populated areas, including larger cities.

For additional information on the N.C. Highway Marker Program, call (919) 807-7290. The Highway Marker Program is a collaboration between the N.C. Departments of Transportation and Natural and Cultural Resources.

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